Meet 9th AF’s new command chief

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Amanda Currier
  • 9th Air Force Public Affairs
SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. - Chief Master Sgt. James Davis became the 9th Air Force's command chief Aug. 3, 2012. As command chief, it is his responsibility to advise and assist the 9th Air Force commander in all matters concerning enlisted members of the organization. Davis has been in the Air Force for more than 26 years, the majority of which he spent as a security forces Airman.

The chief has a history of being a top performer. In 2005, he was named one of the Air Force's 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year, a title leading Air Force officials bestow annually on only a dozen Airmen from across the force. Selections are based on superior leadership, job performance and personal achievements. The chief is also no stranger to serving as a senior enlisted advisor. He was the command chief at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and Kadena Air Base, Japan. Additionally, he was the command senior enlisted advisor, Combined Joint Task Force, Horn of Africa, before joining the 9th Air Force team.

The chief recently sat down with 9th Air Force's public affairs staff for an interview about his background, leadership style and future plans. Here's what the chief had to say.

How did you enjoy your assignment as the senior enlisted leader of a joint task force?
It was awesome. You couldn't have asked for a better position, where you get to be the command senior enlisted leader over all the branches of the service. You get the opportunity to see how they operate, what makes them different and what makes us all the same. Everyone is looking to accomplish the same thing. The difference is through our service cultures and how we accomplish those missions.

Do you think the joint position helped you grow as a leader?
What I discovered was people want to be taken care of regardless of what branch of service they're in. They want to know you care about them. If it matters to them, it's got to matter to you. That's the approach I've always taken, and that's the approach I took with them.

As the command chief, what would you say is the top concern of 9th Air Force leaders?
General Wells, the 9th Air Force commander, sets the tone for our organization and the direction we're going in. I can see he truly believes in taking care of Airmen across the board, and he has enthusiasm that goes with that. When we're out on the road he literally stops and talks to every person. He truly does care about our Airmen; regardless of what position they are working in, everyone counts in the mission we're doing.

The opportunity to get out and see our Airmen, that's the part that matters to me most. I ask three questions when I go out. What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong, and how can we fix it? If Airmen don't let us know what's going on, we can't be effective. When we go out, we're not just looking to shake hands. We want to know the issues. What are the situations affecting your mission?

What makes a good leader?
Be yourself. I don't try to be somebody else. When I walk in the room, Airmen are going to see James Davis, someone who grew up in Memphis, Tenn. and wanted to join the military.

What made you decide to join the Air Force?
I had an opportunity to play college football, and an opportunity to join the military as well. A great uncle influenced me to join the military. He said, "Hey, why don't you join the military? And, by the way, I think the Air Force is the best route for you to take." He had never participated in any branch of the service, so how he chose the Air Force, I don't know, but it's been a great experience. I can't imagine doing anything else when I look back at the 26 years I've been in the military.

Can you describe one of the most memorable or defining moments in your career?
Marrying my wife was probably the most pivotal moment in my military career. I was 23 years old. Now, we've been married for 22 years. In order for me to achieve what I've achieved, and do everything I do, it's really because she's in my corner. She's been my No. 1 fan.

If you had some advice for supervisors across 9th Air Force what would it be?
Get to know your people, and get to know them beyond the uniform. Don't just ask surface questions, but really get to know them. Once you know your people, you can get them to do anything you want them to do because you understand what their needs are; what their desires are; what their vision is. How do you tie that vision in with what the mission is? You meet their needs.
As the 9AF command chief, are their some goals you'd like to accomplish through your tenure?
I honestly just want to try to meet the goals of the commander. Those really are trying to take care of our people in the way of organizing, training and equipping - ensuring our people have the things they need in order to accomplish the mission and making sure they are ready to deploy at a moment's notice. As we go out and talk to different people, I want to make sure their families are taken care of, and I want to ensure they are mentally, physically and spiritually ready to do their jobs.

How did your experience as a security forces Airman shape the leader you are today?
Being in security forces you can't operate in a shell. If you're responding to a situation and initiating a challenge, or you may be the on-scene commander, you can't be shy. Being a defender really allowed me to be bold in the arena of leadership and self-confidence.

It's also one of those career fields where when you're working the mid-shift, you're going to see who's on the mid-shift from other career fields. When you're on the swing shift, you're going to see who's working the swing shift, so you get a chance to really relate to all the other career fields in one way or another. You have that opportunity to meet so many people from across the spectrum, and you get a chance to see and hear from them how they really feel about their career fields and what's going on in their organizations.

Is there anything else you would like to tell 9th Air Force Airmen?
I am grateful and humbled at the opportunity to serve. I want them to understand that we care. We care about what our Airmen are going through today. Truly, if it matters to them, it matters to us. We want to make sure they are taken care of in every way, shape, form and fashion. I want our Airmen to place a demand on us to meet their needs. Don't let us just sit back at 9th Air Force Headquarters, but challenge us to do the job.